June 29, 2016

Partly sunny

Browns: Rookie Barkevious Mingo’s motor impresses team

BEREA — Barkevious Mingo never stopped.

In his NFL preseason debut Thursday night, Mingo did a lot of good things. He sacked the quarterback (although it was erased from the stat sheet when the Browns accepted a penalty), had two quarterback hits, made a special teams tackle, helped Travis Benjamin down the sideline with a block on his punt return for a touchdown and nearly blocked a kick.

Barkevious Mingo

Most impressive was the all-night display of his full-throttle motor. It was one of the main reasons the Browns used the No. 6 pick in the draft on him.

“It’s just something the coaches I played for previously have come to expect and it’s something that is a characteristic of my game,” Mingo said Sunday after practice. “I take pride in it. I love flying around the ball, love being in on tackles and I love being around the ball. You never know when one’s going to slip out and you’ve got to be there to make the play.”

When motor is mentioned in connection with the Browns defense, 330-pound defensive end Ahtyba Rubin dominates the conversation. Mingo (6-foot-4, 240) marvels at Rubin, but wants to be included in that discussion.

“He does it every day in practice,” Mingo said. “That was one of the things the coaches brought up. They wanted everybody to play more like Rub.
“But I want to be one of those guys, too.”

Starting inside linebacker D’Qwell Jackson shared the huddle with Mingo for only one snap Thursday, because the rookie continues to work as the second-team right outside linebacker. Jackson liked what he saw from the sideline.

“He showed a tremendous amount of conditioning,” Jackson said Thursday night following Cleveland’s 27-19 win over the Rams. “It’s tough going from practice then to go to game speed and be able to rush the passer every down. He did a tremendous job.

“When you start playing these games, the level of intensity goes up through the roof and he was able to match that intensity. He has a motor, and you can’t teach that. With that attitude, if he continues to grow off that, he could be pretty good in this league.”

Like most rookies, Mingo spent a chunk of his night on special teams. That’s where his impact was first felt.

On the Browns’ first kickoff, Mingo raced down the middle of the field and dropped Isaiah Pead at the 14-yard line.

“Wanted to go down there and just make a play,” he said. “You’ve got to use your speed to beat those blockers and just get down there and make plays. Speed kills.”

His technique is a work in progress, but Mingo has the fast thing down pat. He was the first man downfield on the second kickoff and chased down running backs and quarterbacks much of the night.

“He’s a freak, man,” cornerback Joe Haden said. “He just covers so much ground. And the thing that I like about Mingo, he’s not flashy, he doesn’t talk. He just goes out there, handles his business.”

Mingo wasn’t credited with a tackle, but was around the ball often during his quarter and a half on defense.

He made an inside pass-rush move and hit backup quarterback Austin Davis. He ran a stunt and almost got to Davis. He overcame a block from backup left tackle Joe Barksdale to chase down Davis and register a hit just after the ball was released.

“I think I did a lot of stuff well, but there’s also a lot of stuff I can improve on,” Mingo said. “Everything wasn’t perfect. Every play wasn’t perfect. There were some busted assignments, and I’ve got work to do.

“Obviously with time on the field you get more comfortable and you play better, you play faster. That’s one of the things I’m looking forward to.”
His signature play was his first sack. Well, almost.

Mingo was stopped by Barksdale, spun out of it, reached out and touched Davis with one hand — enough for him to drop. But Barksdale was called for tripping and coach Rob Chudzinski accepted the penalty — despite Mingo’s suggestion to decline.

“It was kind of flukish,” Mingo said. “I just barely got a hand on him and he fell.”

Barksdale and Mingo were teammates at LSU and squared off in practice. Mingo didn’t feel bad beating his fellow Bayou Bengal.

“Nah, it was fun,” Mingo said. “We joked about it after the game and it was all fun, but it felt good to get him one more time.”

With his speed, Mingo’s go-to pass-rush move is going around the tackle. But he showed variety against the Rams.

“You can’t go in there with (just a) fastball,” Mingo said. “You’ve kind of got to play off the guy that’s blocking you and use his energy to help make the play.”

“He did some of that in college. He wasn’t just strictly a speed rusher,” Chudzinski said. “Obviously, the guys that have that kind of athleticism coming off of the edge present problem for tackles. As you guys know from being around him, he is made of the right stuff. He is really working on his trade.”

Outside linebacker coach Brian Baker is responsible for transforming Mingo from the hand-in-the-ground end he was at LSU.

“He’s a young guy that wants to show he’s part of the league and wants to impact the league,” Baker said. “If anything, he’s just got to understand it doesn’t happen overnight. There’s a lot of things that guys at the line of scrimmage have to learn about this league.”

One area in which Mingo was supposed to struggle was pass coverage. He rarely went backward at LSU and is being asked to blanket running backs and tight ends.

“That’s the part that’s been a really welcome surprise,” Baker said. “You would think that a guy that’s never played on his feet, never played in coverage would be a little uncomfortable in coverage, running with guys, knowing what guys to take, all that kind of stuff.

“In coverage actually, I’m very pleased. He’s far ahead of where I thought he would be from that standpoint.”

And his motor just keeps running.

Contact Scott Petrak at (440) 329-7253 or spetrak@chroniclet.com. Fan him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter.